Once this run of dates with his band The Drills is over, Phil X goes back to his other band for a run of small, intimate gigs in places such as Madison Square Garden; two nights at the Garden actually. The “other band” being Bon Jovi of course. But on this tour, Phil can see the whites of the audiences’ eyes, and they can see him without needing a jumbotron screen. Up close and personal doesn’t get any closer than this.
After local support Honeygrip suitably warmed up the crowd shoehorned into King Tuts with their own brand of modern rock, (‘Tequila’ is a particularly nifty little number), it was the turn of perhaps one of the most talked about bands in the New Wave Of Classic Rock movement to entertain.
Kent-based Collateral have been gaining the sort of praise that would even make the King of the Narcissists blush, with words like “future arena headliners” bandied about by all and sundry. Not by the band themselves though; they seem to have managed to keep their feet on the ground and passed it off with a smile. If they are feeling any pressure then they are not showing it at all, and are quietly going about their business of converting doubters with each gig. Between now and May they will have been out on the road on separate tours with Jared James Nicols, Skid Row, and H.E.A.T, as well as this jaunt with Mr X.
Collateral are extremely confident on stage, and in Angelo Tristan they have a front man that looks born to be in front of an adoring crowd, constantly making eye contact with everyone in the front few rows. Collateral are a different proposition entirely in a live setting, and with Todd Winger on six string duties, the riffs are never forsaken.
They open with ‘Mr Big Shot’, the opening track from the freshly released self-titled album, and for the next thirty minutes the room belongs to Collateral. Confident enough to encourage audience participation at every chance, they play like their lives depend on it, and in front of a crowd with a massive Bon Jovi connection they have found their target audience.
The best compliment that I can pay Collateral is that before they played a note I fully expected to be underwhelmed, but by the time the first song had ended, my feet were tapping and my hands were clapping. Another cynic converted; job done.
Taking to the stage with a good old fashioned introduction from a crew member (not quite “You wanted the best…”, but close), the artist known as Phil X plugs in and unleashes not only a killer riff, but a killer smile, and kicks off one of the most entertaining sets that this much-lauded venue has seen in some time.
Opening track; ‘You’re Not Happy ’til I’m Not Happy’ sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Infectious (is that word still allowed?) good time rock ‘n’ roll, chock-full of insane guitar playing, songs with a wry sense of humour, and a kick-ass band. There is a bit of an Anglo connection with the opening song as it harks back to the early ’80s, when acts like Elvis Costello and The Tourists were never away from the airwaves.
A Phil X & The Drills gig doesn’t follow the rule book; there’s a lot of goofing around between songs. Phil talks a lot, with a “best mate” vibe, and there is a great connection between himself and the crowd. Someone is constantly shouting out to get his attention, so he does the “can’t understand anything you are saying” shtick, jokingly tells the guy to be quiet, then apologises and calls himself a “dick” before changing that to “bawbag”; it’s all banter mate. Or when he launches a pic into the crowd and a punter catches it first time…“Holy shit, that’s like Mr Miyagi with fucking chopsticks!”.
He has a wicked sense of humour and introduces each song with a short tale of what it’s about; ‘Beautiful Apartment’ perhaps taking the gold medal as it’s Phil’s “Fuck you song”. Although ‘I Wish My Beer Was As Cold As Your Heart’ does deserve special mention, not only for the lyrics, but for the way it begins like the best Country song never written, and takes a left turn with an almighty scream from Phil and goes down the path marked “Fuck yeah!”.
The band are immense; when they lock into ‘Something To Say’ the trio give off a Vanilla Fudge-like vibe, thanks mainly to the insane drumming from Andy Galeon of Death Angel fame. Playing like the third member of the Appice drum dynasty, he is incredible to watch (especially after he counts the band in for a blistering version of ‘Neon Knights’). He forms a formidable partnership with long term Drill bassist Dan Spree, and when all three lock into a jam, it is an incredible thing to behold.
Phil X resumes Bon Jovi duties very soon, there is new Drills material on the horizon, which will hopefully in turn lead to a return visit to these shores. Even if you are not a Bon Jovi fan, this is a show not to be missed. Phil X makes playing the guitar look effortless, the vibe he gives off is warm and welcoming, and the band? – a power trio par excellence.
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Review – Dave S
Images – Dave Jamieson